Bike Safety

This announcement about bike and ped safety was posted by the town of Chapel Hill this weekend. Unfortunately recently there was another cyclist fatality near MLK and Hillsborough. This occurred where I was hit by a car while biking to work a decade ago. One suggestion I had back then was to have the reminder sign about" sharing the road with cyclist" be moved from uphill going towards downtown to place it going downhill closer to the corner gas station. I was told several times this was going to happen but it was never done. The chronic problem of warning signs being hidden by vegetation needs to be addressed. I know that the sign in that area was hidden by vegetation. It sounds from this memo that more attention will be given to this. When I ran for town council this is one of the things I meant by the town being more proactive rather than complaint driven. (Don't wait for someone to complain that a sign is hidden, have bus drivers or other employees notice and report it.) Having visible to drivers signs showing where a bike or greenway trail feeds into a street is a great idea and I hope the sign for the Bolin Creek Greenway and MLK is placed there quickly. Once again, it sounds like an accident speeds up the improvements for safety.

        Chapel Hill Addresses Cyclist and Pedestrian Safety Improvements

Posted Date: 10/17/2014

Chapel Hill residents will begin to see immediate action steps this month targeted to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety including new flashing lights at mid-block crosswalks, safety signage, and a step-up in traffic education and enforcement activities. 

Town Manager Roger Stancil has established a new interdepartmental staff group that combines law enforcement, planning, traffic engineering, Chapel Hill Transit, parks and recreation, and public outreach representatives. The team is championed by Police Chief Chris Blue with project leaders Police Sgt. Celisa Lehew and Len Cone, Go Chapel Hill community outreach coordinator. The group has identified a number of immediate actions to identify problem traffic spots and improve safety. The staff team will also join efforts with such groups as the Town's Transportation and Connectivity Board, and the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill (BACH). 

"We are determined to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety in Chapel Hill," said Town Manager Roger Stancil. "Our Town employees share responsibility for community safety, regardless of their job roles. When they work together to design solutions, we can expect excellent outcomes. We also intend to work closely with our residents toward these shared goals." 

Immediate actions by the Town will include the following: 

• Install push-button activated flashing lights at four un-signalized mid-block pedestrian crosswalks on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and East Franklin Street. The existing mid-block crosswalks (total of seven) were installed in 2010, and the Town maintains them through an encroachment agreement with NC Department of Transportation. This will occur during the first week of November. 

• Launch a WikiMap, an interactive crowdsourcing application that allows users to view an online map and post comments to identify unsafe areas and concerns. The data will become available for Town staff to review, collect, prioritize and provide response. This will be launched in October. 

• Place "High Crash Area" digital signs near areas where a high number of traffic accidents have occurred. Chapel Hill Police have found that the placement of signs in past outreach efforts have reduced accidents by as much as 50 percent. This will occur in October. 

• Increase both education and enforcement activities to improve safety and raise awareness. People may receive helpful information, warnings and in some cases, tickets for traffic violations. Officers may cite motorists for failure to yield to pedestrians within the crosswalk and cite pedestrians and cyclists for crossing against the signals or crossing outside the crosswalk. Fines and court costs for these violations begin at $213. This begins immediately. 

• Trim hedges and clean other debris at intersections where high growth impedes view for travelers and clean foliage away from sidewalks and signs. This begins immediately. 

In addition to the above, the Town is also looking into a number of new measures -- such as painting green bicycle lanes, painting bicycle boxes at intersections and lights, adding signage across town, and improving its public outreach. Many of these efforts are included in the Chapel Hill Bike Plan, which was adopted by Council in June 2014. A major goal of Chapel Hill 2020, the community's comprehensive plan, is to provide safe connections among neighborhoods, schools, commercial areas, parks, rural bikeways and farms, and business and art/dining/entertainment hubs that promote healthy exercise and environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Addressing travel safety is a collaborative team effort in Chapel Hill. The following Town departments work to create safe spaces for travelers -- including pedestrian, cyclists and motorists -- and to educate people about safe road behavior, and enforce traffic laws: 

Chapel Hill Police Department 
Contact: Sgt. Celisa Lehew, 919-968-2760, 
The Chapel Hill Police Department partners with the UNC Department of Public Safety, the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools and the NC Department of Transportation to provide public safety education and outreach. Officers regularly conduct outreach and enforcement as a reminder to obey traffic laws, share the road and keep safe. 

Chapel Hill Public Works, Traffic Engineering Division 
Contact: Kumar Neppalli, 919-969-5093, 
Traffic Engineering focuses on infrastructure including signal lights, pedestrian countdown signals, stop signs, speed limit signs, pedestrian crosswalks, medians, and bike lanes. Traffic controls regulate the speed, volume and flow of traffic. The neighborhood traffic-calming program provides residents an opportunity to present a concern for traffic safety. 

Communications and Public Affairs 
Contact: Catherine Lazorko, 919-969-5055, 
Community engagement specialists assist with outreach efforts of all departments of the Town, as well as those of the NC Department of Transportation campaign "Watch for Me NC." Messages are dispersed throughout the year via the website, news releases, social media, occasional advertisements, and at festivals and special events. 

Go Chapel Hill! 
Contact: Len Cone, 919-969-5065, 
Go Chapel Hill helps determine ways to leave our cars at home and lead a more active and healthy lifestyle. The program encourages basic strategies to reduce our carbon footprint, save money, reduce traffic congestion and begin days in a healthier way. 

Chapel Hill Planning Department 
Contact: David Bonk, 919-969-5064, 
The Planning Department's long-range transportation effort works to integrate considerations of bicyclist and pedestrian needs into all facets of transportation planning and programming. Work is underway to create a more connected, bikeable community through the recently adopted Bike Plan. Through the Sidewalk Construction Program the Planning Department prioritizes sidewalks that need improvements to strategically improve sidewalks when funds become available. 

Chapel Hill Transit 
Contact: Brian Litchfield, 919-969-4908, 
Chapel Hill Transit is the public transportation provider that serves Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and supports efforts to create safe environments for all modes of transportation, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. Chapel Hill Transit buses are equipped with sturdy exterior racks that can hold two bicycles. Transit communicates messages to improve safety when people approach and exit Town buses 

Parks and Recreation 
Contact: Bill Webster, 919-968-2819, 
Parks and Recreation is dedicated to providing recreational opportunities in a safe, maintained and inviting environment. The total land area of Chapel Hill is 21.3 square miles, and about 11 percent of this is dedicated to parks and open space. Since the Town Council adopted an open space plan in 1965, there are now about 1,200 acres of park, open space, and greenway easements totaling 12 miles of trails. 

NC Department of Transportation-Watch for Me NC 
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board 
UNC Department of Public Safety 
UNC Department of Public Policy 
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools 
Town of Carrboro 
Visitors Bureau 
Bicycle Shops, Clubs, Alliances 

Chapel Hill is working to make the community a safer place to walk, cycle and drive. For more information, visit:




I'm on board with these suggestions, except the announcement that cyclists and pedestrians will be ticketed for relatively minor violations (Idaho stops and pedestrian-first road design is much more sensible solution). I recently moved to Boston (but will be back in Chapel Hill this weekend; hence checking up on OP), and one thing that seems to work really well there is changing the signals to allow for an "all pedistrian" crossing. Currently, if you need to get from the northeast corner of Columbia and Franklin to the southwest corner, you have to wait through two cyles, first to get across one street, then to cross the other street. Boston's system allows the pedestrian to do all crossings at once (you can make a diagonal cross). It's safer for pedestrians as you don't have to worry about a car turning into your path, and for better for drivers as you don't have to worry as much about someone in the crosswalk while you're turning.

I don't what this crosswalk light pattern is called, and I don't know whether it's legal in NC, but it seems to work much better that the system in place everywhere else I've lived.


Been all peds for several years.  

One huge problem with the all-ped signaling at Columbia and Cameron is that there are plenty of times when it is safe for peds to cross that intersection and they don't have a walk signal.  For example, when Southbound Columbia has a green, there's no reason they can't cross East-West on the southern crosswalk.  So, in fact, many people do cross against the signal during these times.  And then they don't know when it is necessary to stop crossing as the northbound traffic is about to start.  

While I understand Columbia/Franklin is a tougher intersection to get right for peds given volume, it would actually make a lot more sense at that intersection.  Think about how hard it is to make a right from northbound Columbia -- the ped walk signal means that crosswalk is always filled when you have a green light to go.  If there was all-ped there, it would be easier to make rights as there wouldn't be ped crossings during the "car time". 

The Town of Carrboro has begun to experiment with "leading pedestrian intervals" at signalized intersections. A leading pedestrian interval gives pedestrians a walk signal a few seconds early, providing a head start before vehicles at the intersection receive a green light. So far, a leading pedestrian interval has been implemented at the intersection of N Greensboro Street and Estes Drive Extension. As the town brings on a new transportation planner, I am hopeful that the town will implement more of these kinds of safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists.

I just learned this week that at least on some sidewalks in Chapel Hill bikes are allowed to ride on the sidewalk going the same direction as traffic but are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk in the opposite direction. This is the case at in the MLK/Hillsboroug/ Bolin Creek area. I find this to be a bad rule.  Given the number of places with sidewalks on one side and the lack of connectivity of man greenways it doesn;t seem reasonable to prohibit bikes from riding in those areas. What do others think? 

Today I went to the town hall and was given copies of the many ordinances related to bicycles and sidewalks.  Some of the rules are obviously out of date and will need to be changed. I plan on sharing my analysis later but just a few observations: Sec. 21-3 prohibits bikes (and skateboards) on some of the sidewalks downtown but Sec. 21-4 recognizes that " in many instances such facilities [roadways, sidewalks and bikeways] may be shared" Sec. 21-42 lists the bikeways [bike paths, bike lanes and bike trails] FYI the list is out of date. And Sec. 21-49 states that only 3 bikeways [bike paths, bike lanes and bike trails] are two way and "all other bikeways shall carry bicycle traffic only in the direction of the nearest adjacent traffic lane."  I would argue this rule makes sense for bike lanes but not bike paths and bike trails. Sec. 21-41 states that "the term bikeway may include bike lane, bike path and bike trail." Only a few sidewalks in town are designated as bikeways so this rule does not apply to most sidewalks. (In other words it is ok if your child rides her bicycle in both directions on the sidewalk in your neighborhood. ) see

Tonight FM101.1 La Ley is running back to back senate ads in Spanish. The first I heard was from Ben CarsonPAC! The theme was that Hagan sends her kids to private school but doesn't support vouchers while tillis is giving vounchers to thousands of kids (hispanos) so they can go to private schools. The next ad was from People for the American Way. The theme was that Tillis is cutting money for education and health but giving tax breaks to the richest Carolinians.


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